Και για του λόγου το αληθές, δηλαδή
για την απείρως πιο εξελιγμένη πολιτική ωριμότητα
των ΗΠΑ, (Προσοχή: Όχι του Bush
και του επιτελείου του!)
διαβάστε αυτό το άρθρο
και αναλογιστείτε ΑΝ κάτι τέτοιο
θα ήταν ποτέ δυνατόν να διεξαχθεί
στο Ελληνικό Κράτος (λέμε τώρα!!!)
Tuesday September 21, 2004
The largest civil suit in US history begins today, pitting the justice department against America's tobacco giants in a $280bn (£156bn) case.
In what the industry's top lawyer calls "the mother of all trials", the government is accusing tobacco companies of deceiving the American public about the health effects of smoking, of consistently denying that smoking causes diseases and of repeatedly denying that cigarettes are addictive. The tobacco companies are also accused of marketing "low-tar" cigarettes as healthier, even though they are no less hazardous than normal cigarettes.
The justice department is seeking $280bn in "ill-gotten gains" to cover the health costs for past and future victims of tobacco-related illnesses. According to the US government, smoking is the largest preventable cause of premature death in the US, killing more than 400,000 each year.
Filed by the Clinton administration in 1999, the trial is expected to last six months and feature testimony from more than 100 witnesses. Even before it began, the two sides exchanged nearly 120m documents.
Government lawyers will begin presenting their case today in the courtroom of US district judge Gladys Kessler in Washington but both sides appeared equally confident before the trial.
"The government has provided extensive evidence to support our case. We look forward to presenting it in court," said Peter Keisler, assistant attorney general in the department's civil division.
"We do not have any plans to settle this case. We're focused on going to trial, defending ourselves," said Peggy Roberts, a spokeswoman for Philip Morris.
Alongside Philip Morris and its parent company, Altria Group, the other defendants are R J Reynolds, Brown & Williamson, British American Tobacco, Lorillard. Liggett, counsel for Tobacco Research USA and the Tobacco Institute.
The companies deny any wrongdoing and say they have substantially changed their marketing practices since 1998, when they signed a $246bn landmark agreement with state attorney generals which severely restricted marketing and subjected cigarette makers to oversight.
David Bernick, attorney for Brown & Williamson, says the government's case ignores those reforms.
"It blinks away the reality of the profound changes that have taken place both within the tobacco industry and in how tobacco is perceived by people outside the industry," Mr Bernick said.
Like some individual states, the government initially sued to recover the cost of treating sick smokers. Judge Kessler ruled the government could not do that but did allow the justice department to sue under the racketeer influenced and corrupt organisations act.
RICO, originally drawn up to fight the Mafia, is designed to seek remedies where there has been a group effort to violate fraud statutes.
But anti-tobacco groups fear that if the Bush administration, which has never hidden its dislike of the case, wins a second term it will drop the suit or settle it on terms favourable to the tobacco companies. Another question mark over the case is an appeal by the industry challenging whether the government has the legal authority to pursue the $280bn penalty.
In May, Judge Kessler ruled against the tobacco companies, concluding that the government was within its rights to seek "disgorgement" of past profits. But the appeals court is scheduled to hear arguments in November and if it overrules Judge Kessler, the biggest sanction will be off the table.